Respiratory alkalosis is characterized by a lack of carbon dioxide in the blood, also known as CO2, causing it to become less acidic than normal, with a pH above 7.45.
This lack of carbon dioxide can be caused by several factors, such as faster and deeper breathing than normal, which can arise in periods of anxiety, stress, psychological changes, or also due to a disease that causes breathing accelerated, such as infections, neurological disorders, lung or heart disease, for example.
Its treatment is done, mainly, through the normalization of the breathing and, for that, it is important that the doctor acts to solve the cause that triggered the respiratory alteration.
Respiratory alkalosis is usually caused when there is deeper and faster breathing than normal, and this can occur in the following situations:
- Hyperventilation, in which breathing is faster and deeper, and which usually occurs in situations of anxiety, stress or psychological disorders;
- High fever;
- Neurological diseases that cause dysregulation of the respiratory center;
- High altitudes, due to the decrease in atmospheric pressure, causing the inspired air to have less oxygen than at sea level;
- Salicylate poisoning;
- Some diseases of the heart, liver or lung;
- Breathing by maladjusted appliances, which is usually present in the ICU environment.
All of these causes, among others, can lead to a decrease in carbon dioxide in the blood, making it more alkaline.
Generally, the symptoms present in respiratory alkalosis are caused by the disease that causes this alteration and also by the effects on the brain of hyperventilation, which may appear on the lips and face, muscle spasms, nausea, tremors in the hands and be out of reality for a few moments . In more severe cases dizziness, breathing difficulties, confusion and coma may occur.
The main way to confirm respiratory alkalosis is through a blood test called arterial blood gas analysis, in which it is possible to check the oxygen and carbon dioxide values in the blood, as well as the pH. Generally, this test will look at a pH above 7.45 and CO2 values below 35 mmHg in arterial blood. Learn more about this exam .
How to treat respiratory alkalosis
Treatment depends on the cause of respiratory alkalosis. If the person has a rapid breath caused by anxiety, treatment is based on decreasing their breathing rate, decreasing their anxiety and increasing the amount of carbon dioxide inhaled. In cases of fever, this must be controlled with antipyretic drugs and in cases of poisoning, a detox must be performed.
However, in severe and difficult to control cases, such as neurological diseases, sedation may be necessary to regulate the patient’s respiratory centers. In addition, it may be necessary to adjust the parameters of the artificial respiration device when the person is in this condition.
If respiratory alkalosis is caused due to high altitudes, it is normal for the body to compensate for this lack of oxygen by increasing the heart rate and output, as well as the respiratory rate.